Karin Coonrod

Far-reaching inventiveness

Professor Diana Henderson will host theater maker and artistic director Karin Coonrod at MIT to develop text-based theatrical works. Henderson collaborated with Coonrod’s theater company Compagnia de’ Colombari for the international production of The Merchant of Venice in the Venetian Ghetto. At MIT, Coonrod will focus on crossing boundaries between the arts and humanities and working with old and new technologies and texts such as the Anglo-Saxon companion manuscript to Beowolf, known as Judith.

Judith builds on Coonrod’s experience working with medieval mystery plays in Orvieto, Italy, from 2003 to 2006, which involved physical reclamation of a church tower and reinvigoration of a local performance tradition. This kind of community building and merging past and present to imagine new, more inclusive futures is at the heart of Colombari’s mission. Building on work for her play texts and beheadings/ElizabethR and extensive work in the Shakespeare canon, Coonrod is creating a text to be sung and spoken in Anglo-Saxon and in modern English rooted in Anglo-Saxon. The composer for the opera is Paul Vasile, with whom she collaborated closely in the medieval mystery plays performed in Orvieto.

Karin Coonrod is a theater maker whose work has been seen and heard across the country and around the world. Born in Chicago with first memories in Noli, Italy, Coonrod studied English at Gordon College in Massachusetts and Theater Directing at Columbia University, where her mentor was Liviu Ciulei.

She founded two theater companies: Arden Party in downtown New York (1987-1997) which re-imagined the classics and Compagnia de’ Colombari (2004-present) an international company based in New York, which began a new tradition of theater in Orvieto, Italy with the medieval mystery plays in public spaces.

Coonrod is known for her Shakespeare productions including her epic Henry VI (1996) and surprising Love’s Labor’s Lost (2011) both at The Public Theater, where she was Artist-in-Residence 1995-96; King John (2000), Julius Caesar (2003) and Coriolanus (2005) with Theatre for a New Audience; Othello at Hartford Stage (2005) and, more recently, Tempest at La Mama Experimental Theater (2014) and The Merchant of Venice staged on the stones of the Venice Ghetto to honor the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Ghetto in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The Merchant of Venice has been on tour in North America since 2016.

Other seminal productions include her own creation for the stage of non-dramatic material: Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge developed at the University of Iowa, Sundance Theatre Lab and premiered at New York Theatre Workshop (2001); Anne Sexton’s Transformations with Arden Party (1991-95); a cabaret adaptation of Lorca’s “Poeta en Nueva York” with flamenco dancer La Conja at New York University (2002); and More Or Less I Am, a music theater piece drawn from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

She prepared new translations of Vvedensky’s Christmas at the Ivanovs with Julia Listengarten (1996), Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba with Nilo Cruz (1997), and Victor or Children Take Over with Frederic Maurin (1994); all of which she directed in acclaimed productions. With John Conklin she adapted Monteverdi’s Orfeo and directed it in the courtyard of the Palazzo Simoncelli, Orvieto, Italy (2014).

Her own work includes texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, drawn from the speeches, prayers, poems and letters of Elizabeth I at The Folger Theatre in Washington, DC and at BAM/Next Wave Festival (2015) and is currently developing Judith, a chamber opera sung and spoken in Anglo-Saxon and modern English rooted in Anglo-Saxon.

New plays by other writers include I Killed My Mother by Andras Visky in Chicago and New York (2010 and 2012) and Babette’s Feast (drawn from the short story by Isak Dinesen) by Rose Courtney (Portland Stage and Off-Broadway St. Clement’s 2018)

Coonrod’s work is featured in American Theatre Magazine, Shakespeare Bulletin, Image, Sipario nel Mondo (Italian theater journal), Scena.Ro (Romanian theater magazine), among other publications.

As a guest artist and teacher Coonrod has developed work at NYU, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Cal Institute of the Arts, Fordham, Colgate, Gordon College and Univ of Iowa. She is on the faculty at Yale School of Drama.


More about the artist: Karin Coonrod

Upcoming Events

Workshop & Class Visits
March 1 – 6, 2019

Judith Workshop Performance
Tuesday, March 5, 2019 / 7:30pm
MIT Building W97
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA
Tickets will be available February 8, 2019

Diana Henderson, Professor of Literature, MIT

Karin Coonrod. Credit: Marina Levitskaya.
Karin Coonrod. Credit: Marina Levitskaya.

Selected Past Projects